Please see the new Guide to Testing and Assessments for additional information.

What is it?

Assessing student learning within a remote teaching environment may be different from assessing students in face-to-face courses because of the change in the course delivery medium. Planning your assessments for remote instruction is a process that will allow you to make sure that your assessments both promote and measure student learning. 

Why is it important? 

Planning your assessments with a remote instruction format in mind will help to minimize some of the unexpected effects of moving to remote instruction.

How to do it?

1.  Look at your current assignment/assessment structure1 to determine, which of your assessments (e.g., multiple choice exam, research paper, lab report) you can keep, and which you will need to modify, reweigh, or possibly drop. Given the shift to remote instruction, in some cases,  you may also find that you will need to substitute a new assessment for what you have currently. As you go through this process, here are some questions to consider:

  • Will students have the tools (i.e., cognitive, material and logistical) needed to engage successfully with the assignments currently in your course? If not, how can these tools be provided?
  • Does the remote class environment introduce logistical issues that didn’t exist in your face-to-face class? How can logistical concerns be addressed in a remote teaching environment?
  • Does the remote environment introduce problems related to equity and inclusion (e.g., not all students having access to certain software)? How can these be addressed?
  • Do you and your TAs have sufficient remote teaching experience to effectively address the issues you have identified? If not, what changes might you want to make to your assessments to make them more manageable for you, your TAs and your students? 

Review the Remote Instruction Readiness Checklist to help with planning. 

2.  Explore assessment options. If you determine that changes or additions need to be made to your assessments, this may be a good time to explore options for other assessment structures. Frequent, formative assessments (lower stakes, like short quizzes) often work as a useful approach ensure students are staying engaged and get feedback on their learning so you may choose instead to give multiple Canvas quizzes throughout the quarter in addition to an open-book final exam. Less frequent, summative assessments (e.g., higher stakes, two midterms and a final) used in traditional face-to-face assessment structure may disadvantage students who are unfamiliar with remote instruction. 

You may decide to move to an alternative assessment (e.g., a final project like a research paper, annotated bibliography or student-created e-book) to give students more time to engage with material and to provide students with alternate ways to demonstrate their learning given the constraints of the remote environment. You can find more information about alternatives to proctored online exams here.

3. Review your Course Learning Outcomes. Once you have decided which assignments to add, drop, modify and/or keep, review your Learning Outcomes for the course. 

  • Do your assessments still meet your Course Learning Outcomes? If not, how will you modify your assessments or revise your Course Learning Outcomes, if they need updating?
  • Do you see new Learning Outcomes you want to add? 

Katerina Ziotopoulou (Civil & Environmental Engineering) revised her course learning outcomes and redistributed grade weights for remote instruction and student learning during the 2020 Spring term (see sidebar for outcomes and list below for grade weights).

  • Homework - 20%
  • PlayPosit Quizzes - 20%
  • Reflection Assignment - 5%
  • Participation during Thursday Breakouts - 15%
  • Self-Assessment (credit only) - 5%
  • Midterm - 15%
  • Final Exam - 20%

For a comprehensive overview to the Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning, visit:

4.  Review your learning activities. When you are satisfied with the assessment structure you have designed, it’s time to think about the learning activities you will use to equip your students with the learning experiences needed to succeed on the assessments. 

  • Which learning activities do you already have in place that will help students to succeed on the assessments you have planned?
  • Will you need to modify, reweigh, or drop any of your current learning activities when you move them online? How will you modify them to make them more suitable for remote teaching?
  • Will you need to add any new learning activities? How can you use them successfully in a remote teaching environment? For examples of online learning activities,  (resource forthcoming)

Additional Resources

  • 1. Note: Course design usually begins with examining one’s learning outcomes for a course. However, this resource is designed to guide instructors through the process of evaluating and adjusting their current assessments for a rapid move to a remote teaching format, and assumes already-existing alignment between outcomes and assessments. Outcomes are addressed in this resource in Step 3, but they should be a global concern for instructors as they go through the process of shifting to a remote teaching format.